Nothing breaks immersion in our games quite like seeing an enemy clip through a wall, or, even worse, falling through a floor surface, looking up as you plummet to your doom to see the entirety of the map above you, instantly reminding you that everything you see in-game is an illusion, an approximation of real-life substance and matter.
The Atomontage Engine is one of a few projects that may not forever solve these kinds of problems, but could become a huge step forward for realism in games, as it attempts to approximate real-life properties of matter on a scale never scene before in a graphics/physics engine. In a system like this, cars would actually kick up “dust” comprised of simulated molecules from the ground, rather than a script telling the game to render a particle effect when the vehicle’s polygons move against the surface area. Electricity and chemical reactions could behave similar to how they do in the real world, rather than being assembled of a series of scripts and lighting effects. Some more goals of the team’s ongoing work are engine efficiency, content generation, and true-to-life physics simulation.
What’s the magic that makes this all happen? In part, it’s based on the use of volumetric pixels, or voxels. Voxels have in fact been used in game engines for years, the most notable example being 2007’s Crysis, which used voxels for some of its terrain’s features, such as cliffs and overhangs, but no major engine has attempted to use voxels for all of its graphical and physical effects. Take a look at the video below and the Atomontage team’s official site for a more in-depth look at what they’re trying to accomplish.